David Mars poses with his 1929 Travel Air bi-plane at the Madison Airport.
David Mars poses with his 1929 Travel Air bi-plane at the Madison Airport.
For David Mars, aviation enthusiast and licensed pilot, the roar of an airplane engine brings back many memories. Sights and sounds are nothing compared to the pure rush of adrenaline that comes while soaring through the air in his 1929 vintage Curtiss-Wright Travel Air biplane.

"The high altitude, corporate flying is really nice, but the vintage planes are my passion," said Mars. Every other summer, he joins fellow pilots as they travel the country barnstorming, a tradition that has its roots in the Golden Age of Aviation. What started out as a hobby is quickly becoming a profession for local Madison Countian.

"It's really show business," Mars explained. The travelers dress in authentic 1920s clothing and don the personas of disreputable barnstormers of old. For a fee, anyone who enjoys their shows can take a ride in one of the licensed aircrafts.

In 2010, Mars took his passion to the big screen when he became a member on the set of 2010 movie Pearl, the true story of a spirited Chickasaw daredevil whose life in 1928 rural Oklahoma suddenly changed when a ride through the clouds ignited her love for flying.

"So I've been a bush pilot, a transcontinental ferry pilot, and a barnstormer," said Mars. "I also did the flying for that movie and I provided two planes for it."

He regularly sells rides at the Madison Airport. Recently, he has begun flying corporate jets on demand. Last year, he and a friend delivered a plane to a taxi service in Africa. The pilots refueled in Greenland, Iceland, Crete, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and quite a few other countries before finally reaching their destination in South Africa.

As if that wasn't exciting enough, Mars owns seven planes of his own. "I actually live in a hangar," he laughed. A private grass airstrip dubbed "Slobovia" stretches across the yards of Mars and a dozen others.

"I would say I've flown at least 200-250 days a year for the last 40 years," Mars admitted.

He enjoys continuing the family tradition. "My father was a bombardier on a B-17 in World War II," he explained. The father of his fiancé, Ann Rowles, was also a fighter pilot. The tradition of aviation continues with Mars's son and three grandsons.

In the future, he plans to retire his collection of vintage planes at an aviation museum.